Hey one and all, you know we love our retro as much as we love our modern. Today’s reviewed item is one such retro item, but…modern. I saw the RetroGameBoyz work on Twitter and new what they had to offer is something that all of our readers should be aware of. But are their products actually good, or should our readers know how not good they are? Let’s talk about this custom Sega Master System Controller from RetroGameBoyz!
- Build Quality. This controller is every bit as sturdy as the original NES style controller that it looks like. Having said that, I can’t speak to the longevity of the device as it hasn’t existed for 30 years yet. But I think if I were to make an educated guess, I’d say that it will. From it’s buttons that feel one-to-one the same as an NES controller to it’s tight seal. All that I mean about the seal is that it’s not a product that seems like it’s not screwed down in all places, leaving small openings along the edge. I’ve ordered 3rd party Chinese controllers with small gaps along the seam. You could squeeze them and see that they weren’t perfectly closed up. If I hadn’t put in the time to tighten them myself, they would’ve come further apart and put the PCB inside at right of getting dust and other nasties on it.
Speaking of protecting the PCB, we need to discuss the brains inside the controller. No, RetroGameBoyz didn’t gut an NES to get it’s board. They’ve had all of the parts and pieces manufactured for their use. There are pictures further down below that show the quality of the PCB. What I love about this is that you’re not getting a controller that’s been Frankensteined into life. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to use OEM parts whenever possible. But this isn’t an NES controller and it needs a custom solution. Not only that, it needs a solution that is brand new and doesn’t run the risk of falling apart because it’s 30 years old.
- Style. Aside from some small nitpicks (more on that later) I love the overall look of this controller. If you do indeed own a Sega Master System, then upon first glance you’ll see how much this controller mimics the style. It’s sort of an interpretation of what Sega might have designed their controller as if they had an NES style controller that was blank and needed some flourishments. It’s sort of a halfway point between the Master System and the NES in terms of controllers. Discuss the color choice and how it matches the original console. Mention the NES style of it. I love the black on black with the red and white accents. It’s very late 80’s tech in design. Best of all, while it appears to be shiny, glossy plastic in the pictures, it will be a matte controller that you get. I think it’s great that they’ve upgraded to matte shells (personal preference). Anyway, I love the look of this thing and if I don’t stop now, I’ll talk about it forever.
- Cord. The cord does indeed clock in at 10 feet in total. In total includes the part that is in the controller, wired to the board. You’ll have a good nine and a half feet of cord to work with, so that should truly be plenty. I’m so glad the RetroGameBoyz didn’t stick us with a 3 or 6 foot cord to deal with. Now, let’s talk about the thickness. This cord is definitely thicker than the controllers of the past were working with. Certainly not by much, mind you, it isn’t DOUBLE THE THICKNESS. But you can tell improvements have been made over the controllers of old. Without dissecting the cord, I would wager it’s either thicker gauge of wire or better shielding. Either way, the cord is long and thick and that’s the way I like it!
- Buttons. This controller comes featured with two extra buttons in the middle. If you’re remembering the Sega Master System having two buttons in the middle, it did not. That must just be the Mandela Effect happening to you. The buttons here don’t function the way that the NES middle buttons do. They’re already on there because RetroGameBoyz use the custom PCB for more than one system. Other systems have use for those buttons where as the PCB that they designed doesn’t feature a Select/Start function on the SMS controller. So in this scenario they’ve been mapped to be left and right directions. If this is something that bothers you, they do offer a custom 3D printed plate to cover them if you’d prefer.
- Cost. Since this is probably the last controller you’ll ever need for the Master System, I think that a $33 price point isn’t all that bad. It’s also really stinking hard to find companies that make a quality replacement SMS controller. And this one comes in a form factor that we know and love. Better yet, it has extra features packed onto it! There isn’t much to talk about in terms of the cost. Some might complain that the price is too high for a wired controller, but I would argue that. I think having it be wired gives you the retro experience you remember and the long cord keeps you from the reality that you’re not in 1989 anymore with all of its shortcomings. If the controller had cost anymore than $40, I might ask why it isn’t a wireless controller too.
- Feel. If you’re one that is all for the feel of an NES controller, this matches it exactly. You’ll have your fingers landing in the exact same places. The bottom corners of the controller will rest in your palms in the same ol’ places. If you’ve only played NES and never played a Sega Master System before and the controller has been the sole reason you’ve been put off, maybe now is the time. Having a controller that is just the size of an NES controller instead of being large and round like modern day controllers may be easier on your hands. Less cramping happens as you’re not wrapping the entirety of your hands and fingers around a controller. Just two palms and two thumbs. I just love the this controller and how it feels. I never have to look down at it like a foreign feeling controller to see where buttons are and what they need to do. Muscle memory just guides me the whole way.
- Print. This one is a nitpick, because I love the controller so much. But I think that the “Master System” words in the corner should be a little thicker. There are parts of the words that are just really thin and seem almost like a misprint. I also think that if we’re trying to match the look of the original controller, that the red line around the D-Pad should be a bit thinner. Last of all, I think it would be worth it to print the purpose of the middle two buttons underneath them. The uninitiated wouldn’t even know and maybe be afraid to try the middle buttons if they already have what they need from the face buttons.
I love this controller. If you couldn’t tell by my two minute video, I was excited as heck unpacking it and showing it off. I tried to cram as much detail as I could into a video about opening a controller! It plays exactly how you think that it should. And if you have the muscle memory for an NES style controller, you’ll be right at home here. Sure I had some small nitpicks about the printing of words on the face of it. If you’re one who is put off by the design, you could always just remove the print off the front. The controller is still well worth it. Just buy an Everdrive and this controller for the SMS and you’ll never have to leave the couch again. The controller is $33 with all brand new parts such as the aforementioned matte shell, long cord, original parts, and a fun design. What could be better than that? Well, RetroGameBoyz also has NES and arcade style controllers for other systems! Check out the links below for everything that you might need. The links take you to RetroGameboyz’ eBay listings. Ebay is their preferred way of selling since it gets you, the user, buyer protection. Even better, you get to see the customer feedback and full descriptions. So if you check their feedback in eBay, it is over 1000 reviews with 100%. RetroGameBoyz themselves have given me a quote, “I pride myself on quality and customer service – and the feedback shows it. …it is what makes me different from most eBay sellers.” That’s not all, eBay also affords you 30 day free returns if in the United States if you don’t agree that you get a great product!
Click here to buy the Sega Master System controller from this review.
Click here to see all of the other options RetroGameBoyz has.